Parkway Animal Hospital's
Lab Services & Health Screens
Heartworms are spread to your DOG or CAT by the bite of an infected mosquito. The baby worms travel from the mosquito bite to the heart and become adult worms. Adult heartworms can be up to 13 inches in length. These worms can cause very serious, irreversible damage to your pet’s heart and lungs. We recommend annual heartworm testing of all dogs and cats. A small blood sample is used for the yearly testing. We strongly recommend year round prevention for CATS & DOGS because North Carolina has a climate which supports a very high incidence of heartworm disease. Our staff will discuss the preventative options available for your pet. See A PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO HEARTWORM DISEASE IN CATS or A PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO HEARTWORM DISEASE IN DOGS for additional information.
Our on-site laboratory goes hand in hand with safer anesthesia. We do CBC's (Complete Blood Counts), and Chemistries (to evaluate kidney and liver function, and more). You can choose to have tests done before your pets' scheduled procedure; pre-anesthetic tests are good for 30 days.
Annual wellness screening tests are vital to establish both the micro-health of your pet (before serious symptoms arise), to establish his/her personal baseline normals, and to follow early trends. For healthy cats and dogs age 1 to 6 years, we recommend one screening test panel; if abnormalities arise, additional testing will be recommended. The standard "Healthy Young Adult" screening panel includes a CBC (Complete Blood count), and chemistry panel (checks liver, kidneys, and much more). Once we have these baseline values in your pet's file, it will help us determine even minor abnormalities before your pet becomes ill.
For pets over 8 we strongly recommend a repeat of the above tests; plus a thyroid level, complete electrolyte levels and a urinalysis. Most wellness blood work is sent to a local laboratory for testing. We recommend wellness testing twice annually for the senior pets. See HEALTH SCREENING for additional information.
Sick Pet Testing:
When your pet is ill, we'll do extensive blood testing in our lab to determine what may be the cause of the symptoms. We typically have results within 20-30 minutes! Quick results are especially important for elderly and critical patients who may need specific treatment immediately.
Blood Sugar Levels For Diabetics:
We do regular blood sugar levels for our diabetic patients; blood sugar curves, random samples, blood fructosamine levels, and at-home testing are all used as well (we'll have blood sugar results for you within 20 minutes). We will tailor your pet's treatment and testing regimen to what will work for you and for your pet!
Stool / Urine Samples:
Stool Testing - Wellness:
Stool testing for parasites is a vital part of every puppy, kitten, adult cat and adult dog visit. Dogs in particular are prone to picking up Giardia, as well as other parasites. More then half of the kittens and puppies we see have coccidia and/or Giardia, as well as 50% of the adult shelter/rescue/stray cats and dogs. For these reasons we perform a fecal centrifugation test which is more sensitive at finding parasites then the traditional float testing. Refer to A PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO INTERNAL PARASITES for additional information.
Stool Testing - Diarrhea:
If your pet has diarrhea, or loose stools, we'll want to check a fresh stool sample. We'll also want to check your pet, especially if there is any change in appetite, gassiness, activity level, or any vomiting. Loose stools can be caused by parasites, by eating something noxious or too rich (like sausage, steak trimmings, ice cream, etc.), by over eating, by intestinal overgrowth of anaerobic bacteria, by bacterial and viral infections, by pancreatitis, by food allergies/intolerances, and more. Intermittent diarrhea is still a serious concern.
Urine Samples - Wellness:
We are now able to perform a test for early kidney disease in both dogs and cats. Catching renal disease early can help us prolong your pets life by making diet changes and adding supplements.
Urine Samples - Inappropriate Urination:
If your pet has begun to display inappropriate urination habits, such as urinating in the house, or refusal to use a litter box, a urinalysis is recommended to determine if your pet has a urinary tract infection. A fresh urine sample is used to determine if your pet has crystals or a high concentration of bacteria in their urine.
Cytology and Biopsies:
Cytology - Testing Lumps and Bumps:
All undiagnosed lumps and bumps on your pet should be tested. If they are too small to be tested, or in a location that would make it difficult, surgical removal should be considered, and close observation with frequent rechecks should be the minimum. Some lumps can be visually determined to be warts and/or benign cysts by the doctor's close exam. We don't recommend removing these unless they bother the dog; even small warts/cysts need deep excision and more are likely to appear!
The usual way to check a lump is to put a needle into it, pull off a few cells, and look at them under the microscope. This only takes a few moments, and our veterinarians can tell you if the lump is a benign tumor, a cyst, or if it is questionable and should be removed and biopsied. Tumors that have been present and relatively unchanging for a long time can still be malignant (especially mast cell tumors, which can be soft and very benign in appearance and growth patterns, for months or even years, only to morph into something very nasty indeed). No one can tell if a tumor or growth is malignant by looking at it or by feeling it alone.
Sending off a sample of actual tissue is called a biopsy. The pathologist gets more information from a biopsy than we can get from a cytology sample - the structure of the tissues gives lots of clues. We can get a biopsy sample in several ways. The most common is to remove the lump and send it to the pathologist. For lumps in certain places, a punch biopsy is more feasible - a special cylindrical scalpel tool is used to procure several samples from a larger tumor, or one where surgical removal will be difficult.
There are several instances where knowing exactly what the lump is, before surgery to remove it, can make all the difference to your pet. This is why we sometimes recommend biopsies first.
Skin and Ears:
Black light testing for Ringworm
Cats are particularly prone to ringworm, a fungal infection. Ringworm can appear as dry itchy scabs, open sores, hair loss, and more. This fungus is contagious to other pets and to people (youngsters are particularly prone to it). Dogs get it, too. See A PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO RINGWORM for addition information.
Examining your pet's skin and hairs with a black light can tell us a lot about ringworm, especially if the scales and/or hairs light up and glow under the light (called fluorescence). This tells us that the pet has ringworm. Guinea pigs, rabbits, and pocket pets can get ringworm, too. Not all cases of ringworm glow under the black light - additional testing may be needed. See DTM.
DTM - Ringworm Culture
This is a test for ringworm in cats, dogs, and other pets. It can take up to 14 days to get results, but it will let you know for sure if ringworm is present, especially in cases of negative or questionable response to the black light. The DTM test can turn positive anywhere between 2 and 14 days after it is set up. When we perform this test we call you if it turns positive or in 14 days when it is negative
Skin Scrapes - Testing for Mange
Skin diseases in cats and dogs can be caused by bacteria, fungus, mites, yeast, and more. Unfortunately, skin diseases caused by these various organisms all have overlapping symptoms, so we often have to do a set or series of tests to determine the cause for sure. Skin scrapings look for mites, the microscopic bugs that cause mange. Demodectic mange is non contagious, and mites are usually easy to find. Sarcoptic mange is very contagious, and the mites may be very difficult to find. If sarcoptic mange is suspected, treatment may be the only way to diagnose and cure your pet.
Skin smears are made with a sterile swab, rubbing the affected area and then rolling the swab onto a microscope slide. This material is stained and viewed under the microscope, where we can see bacteria, (both rods and cocci) yeast, pus, inflammation, and more
Any time your pet has tender, red, smelly, dirty, and/or itchy ears, we should do an exam and an ear smear. For addition information see A PET OWNER'S GUIDE TO EAR CARE. A small sample is collected from the ear on a sterile swab, rolled onto a microscope slide, stained, and examined under the scope. We'll find yeast, bacteria, (both rods and cocci) pus, allergy, and more. From this procedure we can determine the best medication(s) for your pet, decide if flushing the ear would be beneficial, and when rechecks should be performed.